Eagles to play Jacksonville State in home-and-home series - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Eagles to play Jacksonville State in home-and-home series

Photo: EWU Athletics Photo: EWU Athletics

By EWU Athletics

A home-and-home series with fellow NCAA Football Championship Subdivision powerhouse Jacksonville State will take place in 2019 and 2021, Eastern athletic director Bill Chaves announced Thursday (Oct. 26).
 
The first game will take place at Burgess-Snow Field in Jacksonville, Ala., on Sept. 14, 2019, followed by a return game two seasons later on Sept. 11, 2021. Eastern also has previously announced a non-conference game in 2019 at Washington (Aug. 31).
 
Both the Eagles and Gamecocks have been ranked in the top 10 nationally this season, with EWU sporting a 5-3 record and current No. 14 ranking in the STATS Top 25 FCS Poll (12th by the coaches). Jacksonville State, a member of the Ohio Valley Conference, is 6-1 overall and ranked third nationally by both STATS and the coaches. The Eagles are 4-1 in the Big Sky and the Gamecocks are 4-0 in the OVC.
 
"Our players, staff, and fans look forward to opportunities such as these," said Eastern head coach Aaron Best. "We like to play highly-anticipated, non-conference matchups. Opportunities such as these make Saturdays more special."
 
Jacksonville State has been in the national polls 55-straight weeks, with the last 54 of those placing the Gamecocks in the Top 10 of at least one of the two major polls. EWU has been ranked in 79 of the last 80 STATS polls, and in the top 10 in 19 of the last 22.
 
"We are excited to have reached an agreement with another tremendous FCS program in Jacksonville State," echoed Chaves. "These types of intersectional matchups really help to increase the FCS brand and showcase the amazing football that is played in this subdivision."
 
In EWU's only previous meeting with Jacksonville State, the Eagles beat the Gamecocks 35-24 in the quarterfinals of the 2013 FCS Playoffs. Eastern was ranked third in FCS and seeded third in the playoffs, and a week later fell to Towson 35-31 in the semifinals. Jacksonville State entered the playoffs that season ranked 20th.
 
The Eagles and Gamecocks each have four playoff appearances in the last five years (2012-16), with only five other teams on that list (Illinois State, New Hampshire, North Dakota State, Sam Houston State, South Dakota State). Last season, third-seeded JSU lost to unseeded Youngstown State 40-24 in the second round of the FCS Playoffs, and two weeks later the Penguins upended the second-seeded Eagles 40-38 in the semifinals.
 
Eastern has nine playoff berths in a 13-year span (2004-16), ranking the Eagles as one of only three schools among 122 in FCS to accomplish that feat. New Hampshire (2004-05-06-07-08-09-10-11-12-13-14-15-16) made the playoffs for the 13th-straight time in 2016. The third team was Montana (2004-05-06-07-08-09-11-13-14-15) with 10 appearances in that stretch.
 
Since 2010, the two programs have won nine conference titles and a combined 147 games. EWU's 75 wins rank third among all FCS teams in that span and JSU's 72 wins are a close fourth. The Gamecocks have recently clinched their 15th-straight winning season, the second-longest active streak in FCS, while the Eagles are looking for their 11th in a row.
 
 
Eastern Washington has won nine Big Sky Conference championships, including five in seven seasons from 2010-2016. The Eagles have made 12 appearances in the FCS Playoffs – one of 15 teams in the nation to have at least that many appearances overall. The Eagles are 16-11 in those appearances and won the NCAA Division I title in 2010.
 
Jacksonville State beat Eastern Illinois 30-14 on Oct. 21, adding to the Ohio Valley Conference record with its 28th-straight league win. During the streak, Jacksonville State has won three consecutive OVC titles (2014-16). The Gamecocks currently hold the record for longest active conference winning streak in all of Division I football, ranking ahead of the 22-game streaks of Grambling (Southwestern Athletic Conference) and Alabama (Southeastern Conference). It's also the second-longest streak in FCS history, ranking only behind Duquesne with 39-straight Metro-Atlantic wins from 1999-06.
 
Jacksonville State's last conference loss came late in the 2013 season when the Jimmy Garoppolo-led No. 2 Eastern Illinois Panthers defeated the Gamecocks 52-14. Jacksonville State is 36-0 in their last 36 regular season games against non-FBS opponents.

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